I'm a woman who's miscarried. Twice. It feels funny to write that. To say it "out loud" as it were. To start that way. Because that isn't generally how people start conversations "hi. It's nice to meet you. I've miscarried twice". But, sometimes, that's how I wish people would introduce themselves. Because once that truth does seep out, sooner or later, it's like the floodgates open and stories of mothers, sisters, cousins, friends who have miscarried come pouring out. Suddenly, you realize, you're not alone. It happens all the time.
It's August 2010 and we're in France visiting my husband's family. I'm pregnant for the first time, seven weeks, and, of course, we already have names picked out and we've told everyone. Everything is great, and then, I'm in the bathroom about to pee and there's blood on the toilet paper. Fuck. My mind starts spinning a mile a minute. My heart is racing. Don't I have a friend that spotted and everything was fine? Yes. Yes I do. I'm breathing and sweating and thinking and dizzy and trying so hard to figure out what am I going to say when I leave that bathroom? Do I say anything? What if it’s actually nothing and I freak everyone out? In that moment I decide to just hope to heck that it's nothing and carry on. In the days to come I keep thinking how much harder that is to pull off than it sounded in my head. Every waking minute is one big "what if?" and I'm constantly running to the bathroom to check if I'm still bleeding. I can focus on nothing else and the next three days are a blur of half listened to conversations, of repeated trips to the loo and panic followed by increasingly frantic self talk. I spend my first wedding anniversary hoping what is happening isn't what I think is happening. Finally, I tell my husband, and I call my OB, who basically says "who knows? Don't panic until you cramp", which I do, sitting on a sun lounger the following day as I read and reread the same paragraph of my book, hoping something will sink in, hoping this will all go away.
Then we're rushing to a hospital, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my husband and then me reclined in the passenger seat, and no one says a word.
The hospital is full of lovely kind people trying their best to help and, between their best English and our best high school French we get by. Again, a blur. Foetus? Where's the foetus? Are you sure you were pregnant? Must have detached already then. Here are some pills for the cramping and pain. Call for help if you bleed all over the bathroom floor, otherwise we'll see you in a few days for a follow up scan and blood work. The ride home consists of my father-in-law desperately trying to fill in the uncomfortable silence with things like "well it just wasn't meant to be". At some point, my mother-in-law admits she sometimes wishes she'd never had children and I'm thinking that's about the most unhelpful thing anyone could say at that moment.
The next day I pass what can only be described as a mess of goo and blood and tissue. A big lump of it. I know it's over because I feel different almost immediately. Maybe it's the shift in hormones or maybe its in my head, but I'm different. Different and holding what should have been our child. I call my husband and my sister-in-law to come in. My husband looks and says "is that It?" My sister in law says "yep, that's it". Then I flushed it down the loo.
Ok. Everyone wants to know if you're ok. If you say you are, however, no one believes you. It's like, unless you're a big blubbering mess, everyone thinks you're burying your feelings. But when you actually appear fine, the exact state in which everyone keeps saying they want you to be, they just can't let it go. Yes we are sad, of course we are sad. In our minds we'd hit fast forward and had imagined our whole lives from that point forward as changed people. As parents. But what we are sad about is not losing a child. That lump of goo did not feel like a child even though we'd named it. What we feel that we have lost is the idea of parenthood. If we'd actually been able to hold a being with arms and legs and a face, it would have been much different. Devastating in fact. But we had nothing concrete that was recognizable, we had only goo and what we'd built up in our heads. I realize this is a sticky point here - when does life actually start… The answer, even if there was one that was irrefutable, would have made no difference here, to us, because it is about how we feel and it feels like: Losing that dream of parenthood, that imaginary life we'd created in our heads. It doesn't feel like we've lost an actual, physical child.
Fast forward 6 years. We have a 4 year old boy and a nearly two year old girl. Parenting has been hard.
I'm late. The first test comes back negative but I know what it feels like to be pregnant and it feels like this. A week later I try again and two lines appear on the stick. This time, we're hoping for an end. An end so that I won't need to go through another possibly verging on preeclampsia pregnancy like my last, so that my husband and I won't nearly reach breaking point, again, so that my already very needy four year old who never really ever adjusted to losing part of me to his sister won't lose more of me still, so that we can give the children we already have the focus and attention they deserve rather than diluting our attention further. I could go on, clearly. After a week of wondering how on earth we will ever be able to make it work, the bleeding starts. This time there are no hospitals, no audience, no silences, no tears. Only a deep private sigh of relief and an immensely renewed gratitude for what we already possess.